Teaching

“David is amazing. So upbeat and enthusiastic when he teaches. It is perfect to be able to do voice and piano with one person. We would recommend him to anyone seeking either of these things and more!”

—Frances Shiffler

If you’re in a hurry…

This page contains a lot of information that you, frankly, might be too busy to read right now. (Believe me; I get that.) If you’d like to just cut to the chase and talk about how we might work together, please click here to open a contact form. Completing that form will allow me to respond with information that’s targeted just for you, usually within 24 hours.

But if you have a few minutes, please read on below to learn more about my teaching philosophy, including thoughts on practicing, lesson frequency and duration, and ad-hoc coaching, plus a teaser for the annual Musical Theatre Workshop I direct and information on locations, fees, and payment policies.

Pedagogy

In the simplest of senses, anyone who can push a button can play the piano—but making music at the piano is much more than knowing which of the 88 “buttons” on the instrument to push in which order. Similarly, anyone who can speak aloud and recognize pitch can learn to sing—but true vocal music is much more than words and notes.

The good news is that after more than three decades as a pianist and singer, I can offer my students sound practical wisdom they can use to make music more efficiently and safely. But behind every technical exercise is my singular goal as an artist: to communicate well and powerfully through music. I often encourage my students using a philosophy attributed to jazz great Charlie Parker*: “Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that and just play.”

Practicing

Of course, the “forget all that” part comes after the mastery of the instrument and the music—fluency in music, as in any other language, is impossible to achieve without frequent immersion. So students should plan to include a dedicated practice time at least five days out of each week. (I strongly recommend you add these practice times to your personal calendar, rather than trusting yourself to “fit it in sometime.”) Even 10 or 15 minutes of practice, five times in a week, is preferable to a single longer session. Just make sure it’s quality time: studies have shown that it’s better to put in a few minutes of careful, dedicated work on a single trouble spot than it is to hastily play through a piece and “chalk up” the time as practice.

Lesson frequency

I’m often asked about biweekly (“every-other-week”) lessons.  As a way to save money and travel time, biweekly lessons can seem like a smart choice.  But reality being what it is, students who see me only a couple of times a month don’t progress nearly as fast (even less than half as fast, I find) as those who have that weekly “nudge” to keep them moving forward.  And that’s even assuming we never have to miss a lesson due to illness, weather, or travel.

If you are interested in studying with me, but cannot commit to weekly lessons, you may consider ad-hoc coaching.

Lesson duration

I recommend 30-minute weekly sessions for nearly all of my students.  A 30-minute session generally allows us to review the work you’ve done since I saw you last, address specific challenges, and set goals for the coming week.  More advanced students, especially those who begin to cover longer repertory, prepare for college auditions, etc., may find 60-minute weekly lessons preferable.

Ad-hoc “coaching”

I am happy to provide “coaching” for performers—i.e., short-term preparation for an audition, performance, or other event.  These sessions are much less focused on comprehensive improvement as a musician, though, and much more on “tricks and tools” that the musician can use to overcome the challenges inherent in the particular repertory in question.  A student who moves from project to project may feel accomplished, and certainly begins to develop an impressively padded résumé, but they often emerge at the end of a season of performances feeling exhausted and burnt-out—and worse, they aren’t significantly better musicians for the experience.

In other words, while coaching is certainly better than nothing, I recommend that students make long-term growth a priority, and be frugal in selecting which performances are worth the investment of their time and energy.

Musical Theatre geek?

12-to-18-year-olds interested in musical theatre may want to consider the Open Stage of Harrisburg Musical Theatre Workshop, which I serve as musical director.  MTW generally runs the last three weeks of July each summer.  More details are available here.

The brass tacks, in a nutshell

There is a ridiculously detailed description of my studio policies elsewhere on this site, but as a primer for the prospective student, here’s the gist:

I teach year-round at my home studio in Boiling Springs and in the Studio School at Open Stage of Harrisburg. For half-hour sessions, the usual fee is $30 per session; hour-long lessons are $60 each. I’ll send an invoice/schedule by email around the 21st of each month, including dates, times, locations, and fees for the following month’s lessons, along with any books or materials that may have been purchased since the last invoice. Payment is due on the first of the month, and may be accomplished by clicking the “Pay Now” link in the invoice itself, or by any of several other means.

For students with no outstanding invoices, canceling a session by e-mail at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled lesson time credits that session’s fee toward the following month’s lessons.

Starting the conversation

If my pedagogy appeals to you (and you’re prepared to at least wish you had time to practice five days a week), please submit a contact form; I’ll be back in touch with you (usually within 24 hours) to discuss how we might work together.


*As with many great quotes, this one appears with slight variations in many different sources. The least “pithy” version, found here, is probably the most accurate, but this version is the one that first caught my heart.